We rented a car for our time with La Mia Toscana. It was easier and allowed us access to some of the hill towns in Tuscany, plus it allowed us to feel like normal U.S. tourists if only for a short amount of time. The cars in Europe are smaller, probably because of gas prices, and our rental was no exception. It was a 4 door Smart car. The make 2 door Smart cars but they are super small and I doubt that our luggage would have actually fit in it. It was fun to actually be in a car after not riding in one for over 2 months. We got an automatic, but it was a weirdo automatic. It had a stick shift just like a manual but the stick shift kind of reminded me of something that belonged in a video arcade because you could also operate it like a manual transmission with out the clutch. The stick did not actually “shift”, it just “toggled” it to the left and that changed gears between automatic or the manual levels 1-4. There was a LCD display on the dash that told you what gear the car was in. I told Chris he had full car driving responsibility, as I was nervous about driving in a foreign country, and he did really well after getting his bearings with the dimensions of the car, turning radius etc. He actually drove the car more in the manual gears because he was able to shift it smoother than the car was actually trying to do itself. He even navigated multiple roundabouts without killing anyone or damaging any property. I was so proud of him. It barely used any gas and was quite a treat. All in all definately the way to see Tuscany.
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The second day was a free day and we took the opportunity to explore one of the hill towns near La Rosa called Volterra. It was an Etruscan city (Pre-Roman) but there were also Roman ruins. It was very charming. There were lots of cobblestone winding roads to walk around. Volterra wasn’t as touristy as some towns we have been too. We got to see alot of the locals in action as they visited with each other on a Saturday night. We also went to a fall festival while there and got to taste all the fresh olive oil that was just harvested along with various other meats, cheeses, cookies, and even roasted chestnuts (which I had never had before but are now a new favorite).
The third day, 11/6/06 was a Welcome dinner that had been delayed until today at one of the local restaurants, and we also got to do our own wine tasting at Il Selvino’s neighbor, Fattoria Fibbiano with it’s owner Giuseppe. We tasted the five wines that his winery produces and also got to tour his factory and grounds. Quite a special treat.
By day four, 11/7/06 we were becoming quite used to our perfect Tuscan world and had the chance to experience our second cooking class with Arianna and Marisa. This time it was a lunch and we learned how to cook 4 different types of Tuscan lunch dishes. On top of that we learned 2 different ways to cook chestnuts and also learned how to make HOMEMADE tomato sauce. YUMMY. It was great. We of course got to eat all our creations when we were done and they were all fabulous. I am going to have to definitely try out Marisa’ s recipes for our friends when we get home! Chris also did well in the kitchen despite some slower starts with chopping spices with this special crazy knife things called a Mezza Luna. Marisa said he improved greatly from day 1 to day 2. Me, well she said repeatedly to Chris that “She make very good wife someday” while referring to my cooking skills, and I took this as a big compliment. You know you have succeeded as a chef when you impress a lovely Italian cook.
We were sad to leave La Rosa and La Mia Toscana. I had the best time, as did Chris, and we wished we had more time here. This has certainly been one of the highlights of my trip and I would recommend this cooking class to anyone. I am sure I will share stories about Arianna, Marisa and Il Selvino with people for years to come.